Help me with this cookie/anxiety problem.
January 1, 2013 1:46 PM   Subscribe

FoodSafetyFilter: Does old peanut butter make these delicious cookies ... OF DOOM?

I realized after I put the (non-natural) (Jif) peanut butter in some cookies I just made that it's probably been open in the pantry for ... six months, give or take a month. Shelf life opened is supposed to be more like three, I now see. It tasted okay, though a tad stale/old, maybe. Not rancid/gross, just not as fresh. Threw the rest out, which is fine, whatever, it's just peanut butter. They'll make more. But now I've got these cookies.

My understanding is that most things of this particular kind are more quality-related than safety-related, and that it's unlikely that something will kill you after six months unrefrigerated that wouldn't kill you after three, even though it might not taste as good. But like all chronic worriers, I worry chronically. My sense is that zillions of people leave their peanut butter open for a year and don't even realize anyone would attach a shelf life to it. So like so many food safety weirdos before me, I am asking with furrowed brow: DO I HAVE TO THROW OUT THESE COOKIES?
posted by Linda_Holmes to Food & Drink (24 answers total)
Peanut butter is fine after the expiration date. Your cookies are fine.
posted by Slinga at 1:51 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Do not throw out the cookies! Six months is NOTHING for peanut butter. Seriously. I am surprised that Jif's shelf life is only 3 months, in fact! But really -- peanut butter has a shelf life for the reasons you mention -- it gets stale/old or, at the worst, rancid (though I'd be surprised to find a jar of Jif had gone rancid). Shelf stable peanut butter does not go "bad" in the usual sense. If it did, it would not be shelf stable; you'd have to refrigerate it (as one usually does with "natural" peanut butters, because they will go rancid, very, very quickly, if left out).
posted by devinemissk at 1:52 PM on January 1, 2013 [3 favorites]

Oh man, if the (non-natural) peanut butter killed us after 3 or 6 months, i'd never have made it this far. Even the heavily processed stuff - you can start to taste it when it's old/stale, but i've definitely had jars for well over a year. I sure wouldn't be throwing out perfectly good cookies!
posted by cgg at 1:56 PM on January 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

You'll be just fine.
posted by .kobayashi. at 2:00 PM on January 1, 2013

unless it's visibly sketchy or has a funny taste, I don't think I've ever even checked an expiration date on peanut butter. I would not have thrown the jar away, personally, and as for the cookies, well, I'd eat em no question!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 2:00 PM on January 1, 2013

Wow, I had no idea peanut butter expired. I'm still eating from a jar of Jif that's years old.
posted by town of cats at 2:05 PM on January 1, 2013 [4 favorites]

I made peanut butter cookies this Christmas using a jar of Skippy bought and opened long enough ago that we have no idea when we bought it or last ate from it. Didn't kill anyone!
posted by telophase at 2:07 PM on January 1, 2013

I'll note that I did give the peanut butter a good sniff and an experimental taste to ensure that it hadn't gone off before using it.
posted by telophase at 2:08 PM on January 1, 2013

And now that I've posted twice already, I just remembered when we bought and opened the jar: May 2012. We took it to a convention to make sandwiches. So there's a good baseline for you: 7 months, perfectly fine.
posted by telophase at 2:10 PM on January 1, 2013

I don't think I could eat peanut butter fast enough for that expiration date. I would totally eat those cookies.
posted by two lights above the sea at 2:26 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

PB will go rancid, but it's distinctly awful when it happens.
posted by Bruce H. at 2:29 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I'd like to join the chorus: don't throw away the cookies.
posted by Area Man at 2:30 PM on January 1, 2013

Don't eat them. Send them to 555 Specklet Way, Portland OR.
posted by Specklet at 2:32 PM on January 1, 2013 [14 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, y'all. I am an anxious person, a little, and it sometimes really helps to get a little bit of a perspective check, even when I'm pretty sure I'm overly concerned about something. I will try not to abuse the privilege of all your indulgence.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:34 PM on January 1, 2013

... I think this is the first time I've EVER seen a "should I eat this filter" question come back with "yeah, go for it!"

So I think you can rest easy. :)

P.S. I, too, regularly eat year-or-older PB. If it grew mold or dried out I would toss it out. But 3 months?!? Wow, JIF, bit over-conservative there.
posted by Lady Li at 2:50 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

To join in the chorus of Yeses: Digest Those Mother Fuckers Already!
posted by ambrosen at 2:53 PM on January 1, 2013 [7 favorites]

Eat them, PB is like twinkies.
posted by windykites at 3:36 PM on January 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

I throw things out too often because I believe that things magically become toxic at midnight on their best before date, and even I don't throw out peanut butter after 3 months or 6 months or sometimes even a year as long as it looks, smells and tastes ok! EAT THE COOKIES!
posted by biscotti at 3:45 PM on January 1, 2013

Eat the cookies, they're fine.

Alternatively, mail them to me for an unbiased quality-control check! ;D
posted by easily confused at 3:51 PM on January 1, 2013

Just checked their ingredients list to see if anything is especially perishable:


Nope, not really. The added sugar is not the greatest but seriously, it's a very stable food, there's salt in it, it's fine. Eat the cookies.
posted by Miko at 9:07 PM on January 1, 2013

Branding is weird. Where I live, Jif is well known as an abrasive cleaning agent that I would not advise you to eat even before its use-by date.
posted by flabdablet at 12:06 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Plus, baking! Even if JIF weren't some sort of superhuman incredi-food (which I agree that it is), anything "dangerous" would have just been killed by the terrifying heat of your 350 oven. I suspect that most baked things are thus in the "if it tastes ok" file...
posted by acm at 7:55 AM on January 2, 2013

The expiration date on food has mainly to do with the manufacturer's concerns about taste and texture rather than safety. Here is a recent NPR piece about it.

Anecdotally, I have never thought to check the expiration date on the peanut butter I use for my daughter's sandwiches; a jar might last many months and she has never gotten ill from it or complained about the taste.
posted by TedW at 8:08 AM on January 2, 2013 [1 favorite]

Jif is in the business of selling peanut butter. Thus the ridiculous expiration date. I'd eat the cookies, hands down.
posted by muirne81 at 8:32 AM on January 2, 2013

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